Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011

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19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 25 October 23, 2011 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
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17th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 23 October 9, 2011 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-12; Matthew 22:1-14

 

Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sermon Date:April 21, 2011

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Liturgy Calendar: Maundy Thursday


Most of us in here have looked through a pair of binoculars at some point in our lives.  Think for a minute about what that process is like.  The  object that you want to see is in the distance, and the two lenses must be brought into sync if you want to see the object clearly. 

You might say that the events of Maundy Thursday require a pair of binoculars for us to see the whole story clearly.    Jesus and his disciples have gathered for the last time before he will be betrayed and crucified.  They have gathered around a table for a meal.

Imagine this scene that took place over two thousand years ago, now.  Jesus wants to prepare the disciples for his absence, to give them a reason to hope in the midst of approaching death. 

Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that after supper he took a loaf of bread and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat this is my body.”  And then he took the cup of wine and said “Drink this, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” 

Paul tells us that he received from the Lord what he handed on to us.  He has seen from the Lord this scene, and in addition, the Lord has added this line that Paul passes on to us, the line that brings this scene and this act of eating and drinking together in focus for us.

“Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. 

What did Jesus mean when he said to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him?

The word for remember in Greek is anamnesis, and the meaning of the Greek word, for which we do not have an exact translation, means to make real again, to be present again. 

In other words, when we eat this bread, and drink this wine, blessed by God, Christ is in the midst of us. 

I WILL BE THERE, EVEN THROUGH DEATH, Jesus said. 

I AM HERE, EVEN NOW, IN YOUR MIDST.

Anamnesis.  Remember.

So tonight, we remember that we come together as Christians, week in and week out, and eat and drink the bread and wine together, and Jesus is in our very midst. 

Jesus comes to dwell in each one of us individually, and even more importantly, Jesus comes to dwell in the midst of us, we who are the body of Christ.

Now the second part of the scene that must be brought into focus through our binoculars is the part of this last supper that Jesus and the disciples shared together than only John tells us about in his gospel—but without this part of the story, the object of our story cannot be brought into perfect focus.

Now it was the custom in Jewish society that when people went to eat at another person’s house, the host would have a servant available to wash the feet of his guests, because they would have gotten their feet dusty as they travelled on the unpaved roads of Palestine.  The servant washed the feet of the guests as a sign of the host’s hospitality.

So John tells us that when the disciples gather for this last meal their feet, no doubt are dusty. 

No servant is available to wash their feet. 

None of them volunteer. 

Jesus gets up from the table, and ties a towel around himself. 

Taking the role of a servant, he washes the disciples’ feet. 

Afterwards, he says these words to them—

“So if I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you….I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And so this scene comes into complete focus.  In order for Jesus to be fully in our midst, not only does he to us  in the bread and the wine, but we also find him in our midst in our love and care for one another. 

This is how the world will know that we are disciples—in the way that we love and care for one another.  

At last the scene through our binoculars is clear.

When we eat this bread and drink this wine, when we wash one another’s feet, we see Jesus, right here in our midst. 

Even in the face of death, loss, abandonment, betrayal, Jesus will be in our midst.  Light in the darkness, hope in despair, his real presence, even in his physical absence.    

So tonight, we wash one another’s feet, we come to this altar to share bread and wine, and  we go out in peace to love and serve the world as his disciples. 

We remember. 

 

Amen 

 

 

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